LONDON (AP) — Owen Farrell spearheaded a rescue act from England’s powerful bench as a late and unanswered onslaught of points denied Japan a famous victory in its first visit to Twickenham on Saturday.
England’s 35-15 win was in doubt heading into the final 10 minutes as the Brave Blossoms — emboldened by some strong pre-match rhetoric by Jones — threatened a similar giant-slaying to the one they performed in beating South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup on English soil.
The Japanese outplayed England in the first half with some entertaining rugby to take a 15-10 lead into the break, days after Jones — the ex-Japan coach — warned his former players they would need to “go to the temple and pray” in the face of a “ruthless” challenge from England.
The arrival of Farrell as a halftime substitute — and England’s other so-called “finishers” during the second half as Jones emptied his bench — helped to change the flow of the game and the hosts scored all of their 25 second-half points from the 56th minute.
Mark Wilson, debutant wing Joe Cokanasiga, and co-captain Dylan Hartley scored tries, and flyhalf George Ford kicked 10 point to ensure England survived a scare, a week after running world champion New Zealand close last weekend.
“We had a team with 11 changes and there wasn’t a lot of cohesion,” Jones said. “Owen Farrell made a difference for our team because he’s an influential player.”
It was the teams’ first meeting since the Rugby World Cup in 1987, and a win for Jones over the country he led at the 2015 competition. His pre-match remarks left Japan coach Jamie Joseph not really needing to deliver a team-talk.
“Comments in the media helped our motivation,” Joseph said. “Eddie Jones’ comments fired me up a bit but at the end of the day we still prepare how we prepare.”
It looked ominous for Japan when scrumhalf Danny Care sprinted over just inside three minutes after wing Elliot Daly used his footwork to create space to launch a counterattack. Yet for the rest of the half, England was under siege.
Yu Tamura booted a penalty to reward Japan’s endeavor and after England hooker Jamie George was sent to the sin-bin, England center Alex Lozowski failed to stop Ryoto Nakamura as the center ran hard for the line from a five-metre scrum.
The score was levelled through Daly’s penalty taken on the halfway line but Japan was soon back in front through a try from captain Michael Leitch that was a combination of magnificent running and dreadful defense by Care, replacement Hartley, and Harry Williams.
Farrell’s first act after halftime was to produce a perfect touch-finder, and England gradually began to spend more time on the front foot thanks to the center.
And it was Farrell who stood tall in the tackle before feeding Wilson for his first international try.
The decisive blow was landed in the 71st minute by Cokanasiga, who stormed over as England probed down the left. Hartley had the final say.
England finishes its November test series against Australia back at Twickenham next weekend. Japan plays Russia in Gloucester.
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